Two class films and two crap ones. Guy Ritchie is a director at a crossroads. Ten years ago he put his own spin on gabby gangsters with 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and then upped the ante in 2000 with 'Snatch'. After them came the 'one with the missus in it' 'Swept Away' and the far-too indulgent 'Revolver', leaving many to wonder why they'd paid so much attention to Ritchie in the first place. So while the stakes aren't as high for Ritchie as they are for his characters here, 'RocknRolla' has a lot riding on it.
Back up to his oxters in the underworld, Ritchie brings us another rogues' gallery including blaggers turned aspiring property developers One Two and Mumbles (Butler, Elba), London's Mr Big Lenny Cole (Wilkinson), his rock star stepson Johnny (Kebbel), Russian billionaire Uri (Roden), his bookkeeper Stella (Newton) and plenty of others all working an angle. One Two and Mumbles owe Lenny a lot of money; they get an offer of a huge job from Stella but the money belongs to Uri. Cue more spaghetti plotting, a hunt for a stolen painting and verbals galore.
Ritchie's rep as a lads' director was built on cool quotes and visuals and characters you either wanted to be in a room with or run away from. And 'RocknRolla' sees him claw back plenty of cred. It's not the triumph some of the pre-release hype would have you believe - and there are times when less talk more action was the way to go - but it has enough good laughs, lines and set pieces that you want to see the sequel that Ritchie has written - soon.
Along with the sometimes heard-it-all-before banter, there's also the argument that Butler and Newton don't bring enough to their leading roles here. He looks good and she looks even better, but while Butler handles the comedy well, he's still some way off being a convincing leading man; as for Newton, the femme fatale role doesn't suit her and the scenes between them are more warm than red hot. What compensates is Ritchie's array of supporting characters: Elba's Mumbles is great, Wilkinson's Lenny is a real turnaround role for the actor and Nonso Anozie's period-drama loving ticket tout Tank makes a too small part very memorable. Let's hope we see more of him and some of the others in a sequel.